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Deciding Cases at the Supreme Court

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  1. Deciding Cases at the Supreme Court

  2. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandis – “In the frank expression of conflict opinions lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action.”
  3. How Cases reach the Supreme Court Session – business year of the Court is October to the following June or July Typical month during session 1st two weeks – oral arguments are heard Two week recess – where Justices write opinions and study new cases During summer break justices study applications for review, write opinions, and catch up on other legal work
  4. How Cases reach the Supreme Court Remember the Supreme Court is both trial court and an appeals court
  5. Steps in the Decision making Acceptance – those cases the Court actually hears go on the Docket or Calendar A case will be accepted if 4 of the 9 justices believe a case is worthy of review Of approximately 7,000 case applications, only 200 or so will be heard Cases that are most likely to be heard Involve important constitutional issues Involve legal issues rather than political issues Those that affect the entire country rather than just a few individuals
  6. Steps in the Decision making Written Arguments – briefs – or written document that explains one side of the argument Oral Arguments – each side has 30 minutes to summarize its case and justices get to question each side
  7. Steps in the Decision making Conferences – On Fridays, Justices get together to discuss the case, the chief justice presides and 6 members must be present 5 votes decide the case
  8. Steps in the Decision making Opinion writing – a majority opinion is written which presents the views of the majority of the justices on the case. The opinion states the facts of the case, announces the ruling and explains the Court’s reasoning. These majority opinions set precedent for lower courts to follow. Dissenting opinions may be written if a justice disagrees with the verdict. Concurrent opinions may also be written if a justice AGREES with the verdict, but for different reasons
  9. Steps in the Decision making Announcement – the Court announces its opinion and posts it on the Supreme Court’s website. It also gives copies to the Press
  10. Reasons for Court Decisions The Law – the Constitution is an influence when making decisions as is “stare decisis” a Latin term meaning “let the decision stand” making it possible to have the law predictable yet flexible enough to change with the times Social Conditions – can have influence on decision making, because the justices live in the world
  11. Reasons for the Courts Decisions Legal Views – justices have different opinions on how to apply their power. Some believe in judicial activism, while others hesitate to use judicial review to promote new ideas or policies Personal Beliefs – no matter how objective they try to be, their beliefs influence their opinions